The British music collective, Jungle, knows how to make a room move to the beat. Their performance at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium Sept. 9 began, quite literally, with a rumble. The groove on their opening track “Us Against the World” sent a thick roar through the auditorium, its danceable beat infecting the crowd within the first minutes of the two-hour set.
Fronted by music producers Josh Llyod-Watson and Tom McFarland, Jungle offers a grittier but no less danceable alternative to today’s more digestible pop tracks. Formed in 2013, one of the group’s trademarks is its artsy music videos, made up of complex dance choreography often filmed in one shot.
The name of their latest album, Volcano, mirrors its content well: explosive, energetic and formidable. One only needs to listen to the first few seconds of the album to understand Jungle’s success. Many pieces are collaborations with other artists, but their groovy trademark sound persists throughout the project.
Each song on Volcano has its own texture, seamlessly moving from tremorous pulses into thin, enchanting vocal melodies. Their performance of “Holding on” opens with a clamoring wave of synth beats and strobe lights. “I could dance around for a little bit,” the singer ironically suggests.
Then, the beat drops. The instrumentation steps into a melodious, high-pitched warble that floats above the grittiness of the song’s first seconds. The rest of the piece oscillates between these two sounds, seamlessly meshing them together into one of the band’s most memorable dance tracks. It’s through songs like this that Jungle keeps listeners on their toes, dancing as they wait for the next surprise.
Some of the most notable tracks on Jungle’s latest album are collaborations with other singers and rappers. In live performances of these songs, filmed recordings of Erick The Architect and Channel Tres filled the back wall of the Bill Graham. The larger-than-life images mirrored the magnitude of the songs.
During “I’ve Been in Love,” the band accompanied a projection of Erick The Architect, alternating between rap lyrics and a disco-inspired chorus. Once again, the blend of genres works surprisingly well. Jungle soars in its collaborative pieces, creating a refreshing take on the most energetic kind of dance music.
The vocals on each track were impressive in their own right. Jungle effortlessly channeled a slick, polished ’70s sound on “Back on 74.” With its catchy beat and a snappy dance from the music video to match, the song unsurprisingly went viral upon its release. It’s no less impressive live. During its performance, members of the band positioned themselves in a straight line beneath projections of orange and yellow rectangles. The song took a turn from the earlier, thunderous tracks in the setlist. As the groovy melody lulled beneath high-pitched vocals, it was clear that the song was meant for dancing.
Jungle’s lyrics can verge on simplistic, discussing little beyond heartbreak and dancing the night away. “Keep Moving” is especially platitudinous, with vocalist Lydia Kitto singing “Are you breaking my heart?/ Thanks for making me stronger.” However, as each song progresses, it is difficult to say that their music lacks depth.
McFarland and Lloyd-Watson’s production skills shine through in their instrumentals, pushing one genre to its limits before fusing it with another. Songs such as “Holding on” and “Keep Moving” overwhelm the listener with sound to the degree that the feeling of the music itself is far more memorable than its lyrics. Superficial lyrics don’t phase the crowd much. Their ability to infect a crowd with joy and movement is nothing short of remarkable.